Super Bowl LIII Staff Predictions

Will the Rams or Patriots emerge victorious, according to our staff?

At numberFire, we have an algorithm that generates our official NFL game picks, but that doesn't mean that we all totally agree with it 100% of the time. We're people. With opinions. And we, like a lot of other folks, think that we know who is going to win the Super Bowl.

This is the forum for just that: our staff members are here to give out their winner picks, score predictions, MVP selections, and reasoning behind those selections.

We'll start with the compilation of all 17 submissions and then move down the list into individual picks. One thing is for sure: no team's fan base can play the "nobody believes in us" card based on these predictions. The consensus is a close one, and 13 of the picks see this as a one-score game.

Combined Results

Super Bowl Winner: Los Angeles Rams (9 votes) over New England Patriots (8 votes)
Average Score: 27.29 to 27.29 (no joke)
Super Bowl MVP Votes: Todd Gurley and Sony Michel (4 votes), Tom Brady and Jared Goff (2), James White, Julian Edelman, Robert Woods, Josh Reynolds, Aaron Donald (1)

Staff Picks

JJ Zachariason, Editor-In-Chief
Winner: Patriots, 24-23
Super Bowl MVP: Tom Brady
Reasoning: Realistically, I think the Rams have strong matchups to exploit in this game. They can generate pressure, and they’ve been better at stopping the run over the last month and a half. But New England’s offensive line has played great, and I worry about Goff’s performance when getting pressured himself. I see the under hitting, and New England winning another close Super Bowl.

Brandon Gdula, Senior Editor & Analyst
Winner: Rams, 27-24
Super Bowl MVP: Robert Woods
Reasoning: My head says not to bet against the Patriots, but they historically start slow in the Super Bowl, as Brady has generated no first-quarter touchdowns in his eight starts. If McVay's special sauce clicks early, LA can build a lead. In order to win, Woods and the Rams' receivers will need to free up from the Patriots' press coverage, and their use of motion and jet sweeps can help create space for Goff, diffuse some pressure, and prevent Bill Belichick from finding the answer.

Jim Sannes, Senior Writer & Analyst
Winner: Rams, 27-21
Super Bowl MVP: Jared Goff
Reasoning: The Rams' defense has been dominant with Aqib Talib this year, allowing 6.4 passing yards per attempt with 10 touchdowns and 9 interceptions since his return. Los Angeles' offense is also diverse enough to react to the Patriots' defensive gameplan.

Abe Schwadron, Managing Editor
Winner: Rams, 31-27
Super Bowl MVP: Todd Gurley
Reasoning: The Rams have the league’s best rushing offense, per our schedule-adjusted metrics. On the other side of the ball, Tom Brady has a 71.2 passer rating when pressured this season, compared to a 105.3 passer rating when he's not under pressure -- perhaps you've heard of Ndamukong Suh and Aaron Donald.

Austan Kas, Editor and Contributor
Winner: Rams, 24-20
Super Bowl MVP: Josh Reynolds
Reasoning: I have a hard time seeing a ton of offensive fireworks in this game. I think the Rams' interior duo of Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh -- a tandem which combined for 154 quarterback pressures in the regular season, tops in the league by a canyon-like margin -- will be the key to this contest. If LA's defense can generate pressure without blitzing, which I think they can do, they'll be in business. Offensively, I think the Pats will key in on Brandin Cooks and Robert Woods, giving Reynolds a chance to make some splash plays.

Brett Oswalt, Editor and Contributor
Winner: Rams, 30-26
Super Bowl MVP: Aaron Donald
Reasoning: Aaron Donald and the Rams' front won't absolutely wreak havoc, but I think they get a few sacks and disrupt key drives, turning would-be touchdowns into much-needed field goals. I believe the Rams will get up by 10 early and rely heavily on the run game, mixed with Goff benefiting from the comfort of play action. Donald gets two of their sacks and forces a key fumble to win MVP honors.

Jason Schandl, Editor and Contributor
Winner: Patriots: 31-27
Super Bowl MVP: Sony Michel
Reasoning: For as much as I like this game to be a high-scoring shootout, the Rams' struggles against the run (23rd our adjusted rushing metrics) are one of the most glaring holes on either side. I'm not worried about the Pats' ability to throw against anyone, and we already saw their willingness to lean on the ground game against a poor run defense in the AFC Championship.

Kenyatta Storin, Editor and Contributor
Winner: Patriots, 31-27
Super Bowl MVP: Tom Brady
Reasoning: "We're still here!" Yes, it's aggravating and everyone outside of New England hates them, but the seemingly never-ending Patriots dynasty marches on. Indeed, Bill Belichick and Tom Brady are still here, and how can you not give them the edge at this point? Of course, if we've learned anything from these Pats Super Bowls over the years, this figures to stay close with some late-game craziness determining the final outcome. An improved Patriots pass rush should stifle Jared Goff just enough to give the Evil Empire yet another ring.

Drew Crawford, Contributor
Winner: Patriots, 41-17
Super Bowl MVP: Sony Michel
Reasoning: It's hard to ignore the experience factor in Super Bowl LIII, with Tom Brady making his ninth appearance in the big game and Jared Goff making just his fourth postseason start. While Brady is always going to be the default MVP choice if New England wins, Michel and the Patriots' underrated defense control this one throughout. The rookie runner finds the end zone three times, and the Pats' defense forces three Goff turnovers in a rout.

Neil Dutton, Contributor
Winner: Patriots, 24-17
Super Bowl MVP: Sony Michel
Reasoning: Tom Brady will, assuming the Patriots win, always enter the conversation for the game's most valuable player. But in the last two playoff games, the Patriots have put a lot on the back of rookie running back Sony Michel. He has 53 carries for 242 yards in his first postseason, along with 5 touchdowns. Feeding Michel will allow the Patriots to control the clock, forcing Jared Goff and the Rams into having to play a lot faster than they’d like. The Rams have done a decent job shutting down opposition running backs in their two playoff wins, but they did allow a league leading 5.1 yards per attempt in 2018. James White “may” have deserved the MVP in the Patriots' win over the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI, but in Super Bowl LIII, Michel will rightly earn the trophy.

Justin Freeman, Contributor
Winner: Rams, 38-27
Super Bowl MVP: Todd Gurley
Reasoning: Todd Gurley's injury appears no longer to be a concern for the Rams. What has been a concern, however, is his effectiveness compared to tag-team partner C.J. Anderson. But Gurley unquestionably offers a dimension to this Ram's passing offense that Anderson cannot replicate. The matchup between Gurley and New England's linebackers is one of the greatest edges for the Rams. While I just can't envision Brady losing in a tiebreaker, I can see the Pats being overwhelmed defensively if the Rams assume their midseason DNA -- and that could mean a six-to-eight-catch day is in store for Gurley.

Robby Gal, Contributor
Winner: Rams, 30-27
Super Bowl MVP: Todd Gurley
Reasoning: The Rams' one-two punch of Todd Gurley and C.J. Anderson poses a threat New England hasn't seen. Los Angeles knows the Patriots have a solid secondary and will rough up the Pats' defensive front.

Adam Nessel, Contributor
Winner: Rams, 34-24
Super Bowl MVP: Todd Gurley
Reasoning: Wade Philips has found something with the Rams' defense. Over the past five meaningful games, opponents have averaged 19.8 points. The Rams have the corners to shut down Edelman and make other, less-proven receivers beat them. Offensively, the Rams will chug right along, and angry Gurley will take advantage of the very slow linebacker group of the Patriots.

Eli Weiner, Contributor
Winner: Patriots, 33-30
Super Bowl MVP: Sony Michel
Reasoning: I fear this game will have a similar script as the AFC Championship game when the Patriots got up early and then controlled the clock via the running game against a notoriously poor Kansas City run defense. New England ranked sixth in adjusted rushing efficiency this year, while the Rams' defense ranked 10th-worst against the run by our metrics. The best way to match that would be to put pressure on Brady, which the Chiefs weren't able to do. New England's interior starting linemen all graded top-eight or better at their respective positions per Pro Football Focus, creating the perfect antidote for slowing down Aaron Donald. New England's line is weaker on the edge, but so is Los Angeles' pass rush; interior rushers Donald and Ndomakong Suh accounted for 60.1% of LA's sacks this season.

Nik Bønaddio, CEO and Founder
Winner: Pats, 27-24
Super Bowl MVP: Julian Edelman
Reasoning: Think of all the times you did something for the first time. How good were you? Public speaking, skiing, open mic night at the Improv, whatever -- you sucked. Tom’s been there like a hundred times. No reason to overthink it.

Keith Goldner, Chief Analyst
Winner: Patriots 30-27
Super Bowl MVP: James White
Reasoning: These two teams are very evenly matched on paper in terms of efficiency, with extremely strong and balanced passing and rushing attacks (second and fifth in the league passing and first and sixth in the league rushing after adjusting for strength of opponents). Their defensive efficiencies are nearly identical as well. With Todd Gurley's injury status unknown and the fact that the Patriots have been the most efficient team in the league over their last four games, adding 65 points above what a league average team would score in similar situations, I give the edge to the Patriots.

Sam Hauss, Projections Czar
Winner: Rams 31-27
Super Bowl MVP: Jared Goff
Reasoning: During the Belichick era in New England, the Patriots have been exceptional at controlling the pace of the game on offense and taking away their opponents' top weapons on defense. However, the Rams can beat you in a million ways on offense, and their defensive line has been much improved against the run as of late. Ultimately, these are two pretty evenly matched teams, but the Rams have too many difference-makers on both sides of the ball for me to pick against them.